All we could see of Bakekujira was the skeleton
he floated in, when that ghost whale breached
the brine. Cosmic blue eels writhed inside him;
royal crested terns soared through his bones.
We sharpened our harpoons, but he had no flesh
to pierce. Monster! we cried, as if to blame him
for our cruelties. Whose phantom could he be?
We cowered under tarps in our fishing boats
and prayed. And when at last he yawed away,
we scuttled back to our cozy port, to wait.
As a rib moon arose; he floated in, and beached.
No meat, so we filled ourselves with marrow.
We used to say back then: after feasting
on the divine, we must preserve its remains.
We buried him in a shrine hewn of cypress
stained vermillion. Some nights, sweating,
we still dream a ghost whale swims inside us,
and we become the bones he floats within.
Bakekujira is the name of a ghost whale in Japanese tales
Forget the war for a minute —
and look at me: an ancient wheel.
Let your mind float to
Ezekiel Galaxies UFOs
or down to the gears
in grandpa’s pocket watch,
iris and pupil, a child
spinning on her toes.
I’ve lived all this before.
Kwek-wlos, I was called
in Indo-European, longest
ago, chiseled out of wood,
a seeder of cognates over
eras tribes globes
all part of me as I roll.
Millennia of hordes have
marauded these steppes;
I carried their carts,
so I know. Each time
I think a hiatus might last—
armies spring from dust
as they do now. Still
for a moment, we can
let ourselves caress
derivations, smoothed rims,
spokes of ash and oak.
Author of The Mermaid Wakes (Macmillan Caribbean) with Grenadian visual artist Canute Caliste, Lora Berg writes with a light touch from her home in Maryland. Her poems have appeared in Shenandoah, Colorado Review, and other journals. She served abroad for many years at U.S. Embassies as cultural attaché. With an MFA from Johns Hopkins, she worked as poet-in-residence at Saint Albans School. Lora participated in the 2022-23 Poetry Collective at Lighthouse Writers Workshop. She is a proud grandma in a vibrant multicultural family.
Image: Rickard Törnblad, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons